Foundations of Faith
By Iverna Tompkins
Transcribed by Jane Vaughn
This is a tremendous subject facing the Body of Christ today. With every stream of approach that has been brought throughout these recent decades, it still has not diminished the need for us to understand Faith. God is teaching us some things even now as we seek Him for greater understanding. May we always be changed toward spiritual growth as we study His Word.
He is changing us from glory to glory (2Cor.3:18). As we take another look at faith, let us remember that this word in the original Greek is /pistis/ which simply means “total reliance on the word of another.” That is the noun, faith. Hebrews 11 says, “Now faith is the substance….” It is a noun. It is a reality. Faith is for real.
The action of faith, or the verb, is the Greek word from which we derive our word “believe,” or as we might say, “to act upon.” In other words: when noun and verb agree, or when heart and mouth agree, faith is activated. Does that communicate to you? How often we’ve said a lot of things that we really didn’t believe. That is as dangerous as believing things we don’t dare say. The combination of the two, noun and verb, is when our lives, our hearts, the totality of our being says, “This is what I believe.”
Let’s look carefully at two verses. First, Proverbs 16:23 says, “The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and added learning to his lips.” This is the balance to “confessing” something. In the church, many Christians actually have become superstitious concerning certain practices. If you say something in their range of hearing, admitting you have a problem, they nearly cackle at you with a fear, saying something like this: “Don’t confess that!” To them, when you say something, exactly that is going to happen to you, or somehow jump on you. I refuse spiritual superstition. It’s simply time for us to mature.
Is there a balance to the teaching of “what-you-say-is-what-you-get” (Pr.6:2; Mk.11:23)? Is there a balance to the fact that we need to speak positively and focus on positive things (Phil.4:8)? Most assuredly there is. But only saying a thing will not make it happen. There must be the combination of speaking the words and truly believing in the heart, in the whole of one‘s being, for the miraculous to take place. If people could create things by what they glibly say, I would fear living. :-) The difference is in this proverb: “The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth.” What God says to me I appropriate into my own living levels, I apply it in my daily life. And that which I appropriate, that which is an integral part of me, I dare to speak. Hello? We need the balance in and for our understanding.
I know you don’t really like hearing this, but you need to hear it. The reason we don’t like this is because we much prefer hearing truth just preached rather than having to live it out daily. We prefer people, preachers, who give us little things to go about “doing,” like a verbal formula. We want the magical potion: instant maturity, instant happenings, instant growth. We want to be able to go out and quickly win the world for Christ. We want to speak the word and things come into being. We want the creativity of the tongue, just like God Himself has.
Now, the Lord said that is all promised if – if what? If you can believe. “I believe. I believe–I believe!” We think, by our many and frequent verbal repetitions, we can make a thing come into being. But you see, what God means when He says “believe” is, if you are living fully according to the fullness of the revelation of truth that you presently have, everything you now know can become a reality when you say it. Is it too hard to hear this? I know this may seem like a little twist on what you have been taught, but this is the whole truth. How else do you explain the shortfall in your experience? Why is it that what you have been trying to speak into existence has not happened as you have spoken the words? We need to embrace the full counsel of God (see Ac.20:27) and not settle for partial understanding or partial obedience.
The second verse we need to look at is: Acts 2:26 – “Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad.” Have you ever been in a service where they tried to “pump things up” to a higher spiritual level? They most likely kept encouraging things like, “Let’s just sing ‘The joy of the Lord is my strength!’” And, “Now let’s sing that melody again only use these joyful words: ‘Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!’” :-) Did you really feel glad when you sang that? Or were you perhaps struggling with some realities in your life that struck at that gladness of heart? But you sang along just as you were instructed, reaching for the formula of speaking something into reality: “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.” It was a bit “like sounding brass and tinkling cymbals” (1Cor.13:1) to many ears. That’s because it was actually the reverse of God’s instruction: “Therefore did my heart rejoice” and then “my tongue is glad” (emphasis added). When something is a reality within me, then it’s also a reality when it comes out of my mouth.
In the previous message, “An Introduction to Faith,” we looked at faith resisted, and reminded ourselves of some of the great people of the Bible, among them were Thomas, Peter, and Paul. Then we saw Agrippa and Festus as they were under great feelings of emotional response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, but both were able to resist the moment of faith. We simply mentioned in closing that message that faith not only could be resisted, but it also could be reduced. Let’s investigate that further.
Faith is limited by a number of issues:
1) Limited concepts of God. Some people only know Jesus as Savior. They are totally content to remain on a salvation level, knowing Jesus, our Savior. They have a soteriological approach to salvation. That big word simply means, “to be rescued from.” In other words, they are not going to hell; they have been rescued from that awful fate. These believers are happy, content, satisfied, pleased, and fulfilled to have that level of relationship with Jesus Christ. “Hallelujah! I’m not going to hell.” It is God’s desire, of course, that all would come to know Him in that wonderful way! (see 2Pet.3:9).
Many people put a period on their relationship at that point. They are satisfied and do not desire anything further. In fact, if you talk to such people about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, they usually respond: “I have Jesus and that’s enough. I have everything I need in Christ.” So they sort of carry Him around in a little box, limiting His abilities and power in their lives because they refuse to enlarge their understanding of or level of commitment to Him. “You’re still my Savior.” And that is true. It is their choice to live on that level with Jesus.
Other believers claim that knowing Him as their Savior and Baptizer in the Holy Spirit is enough for them. But even that still limits His function from within. He is active and alive in them, but there still is more available in our relationship with God. Still others know Jesus as Savior, Baptizer, and Great Physician, and that seems to be enough for them. But can we agree there is far more about our God to get to know? He is the Almighty God and He is limitless!
Faith then will be reduced by or limited to one’s concepts of God. The more we come to know Him – and that greater revelation is found in the Word, Church – the more we come to know Him, the greater will be our horizons of faith and our range of experience with God. Great people of faith are people that are rightly related to a great God. Not only rightly related but in close communication or communion with Him, ever increasing their comprehension of Who He is.
2) A limited knowledge of the Word. How often do we hear Christians say, “I didn’t know that was in the Bible.” “I didn’t know that promise was there.” “I didn’t realize that thus and so…” “I never dreamed God would ever this….” or “that there was a time that anyone in the Bible ever went through something such as I’m going through today.” That’s why He says to us, “Get in the Word! Read the Word! Listen carefully as you read.” If you are a new Christian, begin with a modern translation of the Bible. It should be something you can understand. Read it regularly and say, “Thank You Holy Spirit” for every new thing you read. Then graduate to other translations that will assist you in your study and subsequent growth process. The Word of God is nourishment to our whole beings. We need to learn to eat it, to ingest and digest it’s truths.
3) Limited obedience to the Word. Limited obedience. How important is that? Do you remember the story of Elisha and Joash? (2Kgs.13:14-19). Joash was the king of Israel at a time when the Syrians had besieged Israel. Here is how the story unfolds. There was a man of God, Elisha, and he was about to die. He knew he was going to die and so he called for the king of God’s people, Israel, and said to him, “Now I want to tell you some things.” Elisha began to share his faith in God with Joash. During that visit, he said, “Joash, God is going to deliver you, and I really believe Him for it.” Joash said, “Me too. I’m with you.” It’s worded a little differently in the King James. :-)
Elisha handed Joash his arrows and said, “Alright, smite the ground with these arrows. Let’s go with God.” Joash took the arrows and hit the ground: one, two, three times and then quit. Do you remember? Elisha got a little upset with the king and said, “You should have smitten and smitten and smitten and smitten and smitten the ground because had you done it more fervently, that would have been the same number of times you would be successful in battle over the enemy. Now, you will win only three times.”
What is the whole point of this? We settle for less than God’s desire for us. We win one victory and want to sit down the rest of our lives saying, “I’ll never forget. Back in 19… Oh, that was a glorious time!” And sorrowfully, every time there is a testimony service at church, we hear the same old testimonies. Repeatedly, it’s, “I’ll never forget, back when…” Well, I wish you would forget! :-) A true testimony is a vital reality that happens day by day, hour by hour, and is in the present tense. When we limit our obedience to the Word of God, then we admit that faith has its limitations.
4) Limited hearing. This condition also negatively affects faith. Isn’t it interesting how we can hear from God through brother So-and-So, but not brother Such-and-Such? Isn’t it interesting how we can hear from God in the New Testament, but not from the Old? Isn’t it interesting how we can hear from God on certain subject matters but not on others? Can you see what we do to limit God?
That limitation of our hearing keeps us stagnating in certain positions of spiritual maturity, and we never go beyond them, or grow to higher levels, because our attitude is, “…it was good for our fathers, it was good for our mothers…” (and, bless God) “it’s good enough for me.” I won’t sing “That Old Time Religion.” I certainly don’t sing that verse! :-) My Mother and Dad have both graduated from this life, but if either or both of them were here, they would state this attitude: “I don’t want her to settle for what we had.” It’s from glory to glory (2Cor.3:18) we grow and change.
Every generation has the benefit of the preceding generation’s revelation – plus their own. Why would we want settle for less? When we receive fresh revelation from God, when we’re challenged to rise to a higher level, we must make a choice. We can accept the challenge and make a difference, or return to business as usual. We can appropriate new truths and live like we’ve encountered the living God, or we can sit down and stagnate with everyone else. You will have a choice to make after being exposed to the truths you are reading today! Will you read and give only mental assent to the message, or allow God to make His challenge a personal one to you?
Oh, that we had the courage to respond positively to what we hear! “I’m going to shine as a light in my church, my home, my community, my workplace. I’m going to make a difference! I’m going to be the salt that everyone is crying out for! They are going to see a newness in me, a reality of something that I’ve now been able to lay hold of in my own understanding. I refuse to remain unchanged by the truth of God’s Word!”
Go to Part 2